Even in the best of times, owning or leading a company is extremely challenging. In addition to a myriad of business skills, it requires grit, perseverance, and an unshakably positive outlook to master internal business challenges as well as maneuvering the ups and downs of the marketplace. Since 2020, entrepreneurs have also had to deal with the impact of Covid both on their business and their own families. Trying to keep their companies afloat when money is running dry, and providing leadership and inspiration for employees battling illness and mourning the loss of family members have taken a serious toll on entrepreneurs. Dan Murray-Serter was among the first to identify this problem. In a 2020 Forbes article titled, “Why Entrepreneurs Need to talk about Their Mental Health,” he observed: “72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non entrepreneurs.”
We have taken a big hit, for sure, but we will recover. Those of us who still have a functioning entrepreneurial enterprise are very fortunate to be able to re-ignite it under better, post-pandemic circumstances. But looking back on the past two years, what have we learned about ourselves?
I believe there are important lessons in nearing our emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial breaking points. Many entrepreneurs have given back more than ever before, keeping their employees on payroll when there was no work and providing all sorts of other accommodations to preserve positions and keep the doors open (remote work, flexible work schedules, higher salaries, etc., etc.). I can’t help but reference Simon Sinek’s 2017 book “Leaders Eat Last” here. “Eating last” IS what so many of us have done during the pandemic. But unfortunately, that practice has become one of the reasons why a disproportionately high percentage of entrepreneurs is now suffering from depression and anxiety. There is no virtue in putting yourself last because it ultimately doesn’t benefit anyone–yourself, employees, and customers included.
In fact, to improve your emotional wellbeing and mental health, I’m suggesting that you start putting yourself first. Let me explain. Perhaps, you are familiar with Mike Michalowicz’s book, Profit First. It teaches the proper mindset and techniques to manifest profit on an ongoing basis, rather than treating it as an accidental byproduct of your year-end accounting. If profit is what you want, you work with profit in mind from day 1, and make decisions that support that goal. Otherwise, profit is by default what’s left over after all expenses are subtracted from your income. Business is naturally all-consuming. It will not only eat your profits, but more importantly, it will quite naturally rob you of your time, energy, health, and possibly your relationships. If left unchecked, your business will take over your life. It will put you last.
So the real challenge for entrepreneurs is how to leverage these strong forces inside the business. In other words, we need to design an operation that supports us, rather than us supporting our business.
It all starts with a plan. No, I am not talking about a business plan; I assume you already have that. I am talking about a personal plan–a concise One Page Personal Plan to help you determine your personal life priorities and align these with your business goals.
For the following instructions, please refer to the free One Page Personal Plan tool we use at Scaling Up. It is available for download on my website.
Listed across the top of this tool are the four main areas of your personal life–Relationships, Achievements, Rituals and Wealth. Working from top to bottom and starting with the left column (Relationships), think of all the people with whom you will want to have a meaningful personal relationship for the next 10 to 25 years. Then turn your attention to the people you will focus on for the next 12 months. Finally, decide which relationships you will start or stop over the next 90 days.
Column 2 is dedicated to your Personal Achievement goals relative to the people you mentioned in the Relationships columns. Focus on long-range (10-25 years), medium-range (12 months), and short-term (90 days) goals. You may need to include stopping the pursuit of achievements that prevent you from nurturing your key relationships in your personal or professional life.
Column 3 lists Rituals. These can be understood as regular routines you enjoy with key relationships in your life (spouse, kids, friends, etc.). Keeping long-, medium-, and short-term planning in mind, which new routines would you like to develop or discontinue?
Finally, column 4 is dedicated to your personal wealth. From an energetic point of view, you may want to think of your wealth not as an end in and of itself but as a means to support other elements of your personal plan.
There’s no specific way to fill out this template. But this process will get you thinking about what truly matters in your life, and how your personal life and business life can coexist to the benefit of all involved.
Need some guidance to help you sort things out?